Archives for category: things to see

waterpotplant

It’s rainy season. With bells on. It is marginally, fractionally, just a smidge cooler though after a blustery shower which makes wandering around a little less hot and bothersome. In fact, I actually felt a bit chilly the other day. Saying that though, today is a scorcher!

Now, Minx is saying that she isn’t getting a feel of Singapore from the photos I am sending home. I should point out that we lived out here as a family 40 years ago and the Singapore my mother loves so much is gone. Maybe that is why I spend so much time looking for ‘old’ Singapore, perhaps it is some early childhood memory I’m trying to find.

This photo perfectly sums up the change. Gentrification is everywhere. I don’t mind that, I just wish it always didn’t all look the same. I wonder if these neighbours speak. I doubt it somewhow.

old and new

Shopping malls are another part of Singapore life – the largest one I have ever been to in my life is called Vivo City at Harbourfront. It is absolutely enormous. It’s the kind of place that I go to thinking ‘Let’s go to Vivo City, all the shops are in one place, brilliant idea’. Then you get there and realise that the shop you want is 5 escalators and about 2km away from the entrance. Bleugh. The last time we went there Dom was going up an escalator in a daydream and looked at the brushes at the side of the step bit. You know the ones I mean – the bristles that stop any rubbish getting stuck in the sides. Dom thought ‘I wonder if that feels nice if you brush your foot against the bristles’. Of course the pharmacist is MILES away from where you are as your foot gets sliced and bleeds everywhere…. Millie rightly said ‘You won’t do that again, will you daddy!’

Away from the malls though, if you look down side streets you can still see old shophouses open for business. How long they will survive? Who knows. I love them. On a hot (or rainy day) you can walk under the archways keeping cool in the shade.

hardware store

greengrocers

I also want to find the painters that, when refurbishing yet another row of shophouses into posh residences, didn’t paint over this. So grateful.

lucky book store

lucky book store close up

In my quest for space, we took the kids around Macritchie Resevoir. I wonder how much of this has been recently man-made or if it has been preserved as part of Singapore heritage? The following are some pics from there. Hard to believe this is in the middle of Singapore. I am going to point out though that it took a great deal of patience (which I deeply lack) to take pictures without hordes of people in it. The walkers, families, trail runners and meanderers make this a less restful place than it looks…

view from tree top walk

monkey

macritchie resevoir

Singapore now. Singapore then.

stepping stones

Let’s get out of the city today; out of the chaos and the noise, the chatter and the fumes.

I had to get some peace and didn’t know if you could find it in Singapore. I was given a tiny taste at the Pasir Ris park where if you can escape the play park, the bicycles, micro scooters, stables and pony rides there is a mangrove swamp. Not a big one, but a mangrove swamp all the same. This fair island was once nearly all swamp and that is very, very hard to believe at times.

And escape I did. Up to the North West of this tiny island and the Kranji Farms and the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. It’s impossible to describe how strange this landscape is to girl from Kent but it is how I imagine the world to be if the dinosaurs were still roaming. The swamp is tidal which probably explains this:

mangrove swamp

And it has a quiet, eerie sound with all the birds and insects that makes you feel like you’re abandoned alone.

ghostly mangrovee

But then, if you open your eyes, you see that life is bursting in these dark, dank swamps – crabs of all shapes and sizes, fish like needles and mudskipper alien frogs. Then you start to notice the flora and fauna. It’s a haunting, magical place.

flowers in the swamp

pinprick flowers

Then, it breaks to give you wide lakes with flying fish. They are surprisingly inelegant and sort of plop in the water. Plop, it’s a good word.

mangrove reflections

Then, who should wander up to see what the fuss was about but this enormous bad boy. A water monitor lizard. Totally pre-historic with a scaly giant lizard body and a snakes head. Honestly, you couldn’t make him up. And no, they don’t run off when you startle them.

monitor lizard 1

monitor lizard

Then I saw a sign warning you about the crocodiles. Ok, monitor lizards I’m ok with but crocs.. hmmm… time to go.

The next stop was Bollywood Veggies. Go, you won’t regret it, just get on a bus, get in a car and GO. Everything about this place is an antidote to life in Singapore. It’s an organic farm and the biggest producer of bananas in Singapore. But this place is no straightforward, run-of-the-mill farm. As we walked in we were greeted by Tony – a Welsh gent of a certain vintage and a host of information and chat about the place. Then, Ivy arrived. Ivy and her husband own and manage Bollywood Veggies. She is a hurricane of a woman. I don’t know much about chakras but if you were to find Ivy’s it would be fire and lava. You can feel the heat of her energy as she strides past you (talking, always talking… very loudly). She tells Tony there are a group from a hospital here to talk about planting a sustainable garden. ‘At last’ she declares ‘they see that they can have a garden to eat. Wonderful’ and off she goes like a tornado.

butterfly dreams

Planted on permaculture principles of keeping layers of plants in harmony with each other, it is beautiful. Ten acres of clever planting and brimming with birds and butterflies. Can you tell how much I loved it? I truly did. More than a garden, more than a farm, Ivy and her husband are true philanthropists. They employ staff with physical disabilities and my companion for the day has read May’s book ‘Scaling Walls’ about her life. I hope Singapore embraces the message from Bollywood Veggies and takes it to her heart.

bollywood gardens1

lilies

Read about it here http://www.bollywoodveggies.com

Thailand - reflectionsThailand - ladies loo

Oh Thailand, you and I are fickle friends. We have known each other since 1992 on and off over the years and each trip I threaten to throw in the towel on our friendship. This trip was the closest we have come to a permanent break up. We stayed in Mai Khao beach in north Phuket (we were kindly offered a great deal). As an area it has never stuck out the guide book as one to visit but being off the beaten track is my favourite place to be.

But here I encountered a new side of tourism. The Fear Factor. Golf buggies move you between the three resort complexes – this is classed as ‘exploring’. At every turn you are warned about dealing with local taxi drivers, getting ripped off, danger, danger, danger. Stay on their private beach so we can protect you. Protect us from what? Be afraid.

All nationalities are catered for. You can get bento boxes, burgers or pizzas. There were activities – ping pong tournaments, pilates, towel folding classes (really). But every corner you turned the resort sales staff were there; peddling this ‘lifestyle timeshare’. If you express a desire to leave? Eyebrows are raised – why would you want to leave this paradise?

Because we want to see Thailand. Thailand and I were going to fall out, again.

We escaped. (I don’t think we were alone in this.)

We found a beach hawker stall. His food was simple, cheap and tasty and he had a swing that the kids played on for hours. We found Kin Dee restaurant. We went early to watch the sun go down. From their terrace we watched the fisherman walking through the shallows with their nets and then as one all the cicadas began to make their noise and do their thing. It was deafening. Have the prawns in holy basil and garlic chilli with a cold beer. It’s worth it.

Hawker stall - Mai Kao Beach

Freedom on the Beach

Thailand and I made up. Again.

Dom and I will always, always be backpackers at heart.

Thailand - buddha

The summer holidays are rolling on here as the deadly duo start school at the beginning of August. They are like animals that have come out of hibernation a little bit too soon and have struggled going from the freezing UK to hot, hot Singapore. (As have I). Finding your way around a new place on the hunt for things to do can be a challenge… here are my top four places for lazy mothers of the summer (so far).

Our Pool. Lucky that we are to live in a condo with two pools I can officially record that it takes an eight year old and a six year old exactly one month to utter the words ‘nah, I don’t feel like swimming today’ after swimming twice a day for the past four weeks.

Singapore Art Museum. Free for them (always a bonus) and the kids summer art program was a surprise hit. I think it was the room where you sit on a bed and it spins through the wall taking you into a 3D nightmare that did it.

climbing the beanstalk

Botanic Gardens. Another freebie, wahey! I’m not going to lie I am heading back here the day they start school by myself. I enjoyed it more than they did, but you know, give and take and all that….

black swan1

The Beach. Hhmmm, jury is out. We live near the East Coast – it’s man-made; it shows. The kids ask if they can swim in the sea, ‘not if you have all the vaccinations in the world’ is my reply. The horizon is full of tankers queueing to get in to the harbour and the water is a grungy brown. Singapore, so famous for its draconian approach to gum, does not have the same policy towards dog poop. Kids love it, so there you go.

millie on the beachNed at the beach

waterliliessausage buildingat the top

When you think of expat, you think of a gilded existence – a relocation package, a huge condo in Holland village and money to burn – well we don’t. Not even a smidge. Yep, we are the shoestring expats. Can Singapore be done on a budget?

So we head out to another the Bond Street of Singapore – Marina Bay Sands. It is jaw dropping, unashamedly exclusive and well, dangerously teetering on twee. There is a gondola taking people down a ‘river’ between the shops. And the shops – Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Ferrari, Gucci and Clarks shoes (I know, that’s what I thought.) Walking through it was enough – it makes you want to brush your hair and put lipstick on. Once you are out you are by the broken eggshell building – named by Millie – which houses the Art/Science museum. One Egyptian exhibition later we wandered down to the Marina Sands Hotel. It’s the 57 floor skyscraper with the sausage/ spaceship on the top. This is where it pays to be cheeky. At the top we ‘fessed up we weren’t hotel guests but this is Singapore so we were invited to go to the viewing point (and they didn’t look us up and down in that snooty way that Parisiens definitely do best). At the top? An infinity pool and a bar of course! Y’know, it was slightly hectic, very noisy and jam packed with Chinese and Japanese tourists. For all the money in the world people……….

As we walk out there is a boy of six swinging a Fendi bag. The urge to grab him by his Ralph Lauren collar and peek in his bag just to see what a kid would want from Fendi is OVERWHELMING so I know it’s time to go back to Joo Chiat Lane.

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